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Carl Edwards “Shocked” By Impending Hall of Fame Induction; Explains Reasons for Retirement

Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Since detailing, in an earth-shattering announcement, his plans to immediately exit the NASCAR Cup Series seven years ago (January 2017), Carl Edwards has been spotted less often than Bigfoot.

In that lapsed period, the sport has been through an incredible transformation, doing so without one of the all-around most successful drivers of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

So, when the Columbia, Missouri-born driver resurfaced at Darlington Raceway last Spring, the appearance was sentimental to not just the fans, but those within the industry who had spent years interacting with one of the kindest faces in the garage.

Two times in the last 12 months, Edwards has been sucked into the vacuum of NASCAR’s influence; being named one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers in 2023, and now, being elected as a member of the Class of 2025 for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

On Thursday, in his first media availability in quite some time, Edwards spoke candidly about several topics, including his life as a retiree, the reasons behind his suddenly walking away, and what his future inside of NASCAR could look like.

In total candor, Edwards admitted that he was shocked to be elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, to the point where he wasn’t available when the sanctioning body was going be announcing the Class of 2025.

“It was very unexpected, so much so that I was in the air at 4:00 pm when I was supposed to be by my phone,” said Edwards. “I thought about it that morning – Amber Wells from the Hall of Fame sent an email and said where will you be at 4:00 pm, just in case, but I thought ‘I can’t build my day around this because it’s not going to happen.'”

“I was shocked, and I still am, at how much it means to me. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way, it’s very humbling.”

Edwards, a 72-time NASCAR National Series winner and the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series champion, was even bashful, more than a week after the announcement, about whether or not he deserved the honor.

“I always felt like the guy who just got to be a part of it,” Edwards said. “The sport gave me so much, the people in the sport gave me so much, I think of a Hall of Fame person as someone who gave more, and I guess that’s why it shocks me.”

All of these years later, Edwards still thinks about the impact of his sudden departure, explaining his hope that people didn’t view his move as disrespectful, but rather understood his overall appreciation for the sport.

So, why would Carl Edwards, seemingly in the prime of his career and about the enter his third season with a championship-caliber team such as Joe Gibbs Racing, decide to immediately pull the plug?

The 44-year-old driver says that he initially felt “misunderstood”, but laid out his three cornerstone reasons for his departure; needing to prioritize being a good father and husband, being fulfilled by what he had accomplished, and understanding that he was lucky to have a 15-year career with no major injuries or lingering problems.

“Looking back, I hope people can understand, it’s really simple: I needed time,” Edwards said. “I was talking to someone earlier about what’s my role in life. I needed to be a good father and a good husband, and I was not able to do that. I realized I wasn’t doing a good enough job at that.”

“Number two, I felt like I have accomplished all I needed to accomplish in the sport for me, and three, it’s really a risky sport, and I escaped without any lasting injuries or acute things and I just felt fortunate. That timing for me was perfect, but definitely it was harder to understand and definitely I could have done a better job.”

“I run into a lot of people who it definitely makes sense to, but hopefully, through the process of the Hall of Fame, I can answer questions for those people who don’t understand or who would like to, that would be nice.”

Now, as a future member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Edwards is tasked with serving as an ambassador for the sport, a task which the Columbus, Missouri-native says he’s up to tackling.

“I’m up to the task. The more I look back on my career and all of the wonderful things and wonderful people the more I’m happy to share my love for the sport, and my gratitude to everyone involved. So, I’ll try to do the best that I can and it’s so interesting the timing of this is just the time where I feel like I have a much better perspective on things, so if I can share just the joy I had in the sport with people, that would be great.”

It was the aforementioned trip to Darlington Raceway, for NASCAR’s 75th anniversary celebration, that caught the interest of Edwards, though, who said he had a lot more fun than he expected being back at the racetrack.

“I had more fun than I thought I would have up in the booth with Clint [Bowyer] and Mike [Joy] and it was really enjoyable, that shocked me,” added Edwards. “I went there thinking this is a huge honor and it’s something I need to go and respect the honor, and I left thinking that’s fun.”

“So, I think if I were to come back in a regular capacity, what I enjoyed was being up in the booth and kind of calling the race — to whatever degree I did there for 45 minutes or whatever,” Edwards joked. “That part I enjoyed, so maybe something like that, but I don’t have anything lined up right now, but definitely much more open to that than I ever have been.”

While he enjoyed being back at the racetrack, don’t expect Edwards to get back behind the wheel of a racecar anytime soon, at least not in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“No, not of a Cup car I don’t think,” Edwards explained when asked if he would ever return to racing. “I did enjoy running the sim a bit last year, and I think I’m going to do a little bit more of that, just to try and understand — I love cars and I’m very curious, but for me no plans right now.”

“The reason I don’t get into a car now is because I respect how tough it is, I know how tough it is, so to do it as a fun thing… I have fun personally trying to do very well at things, so to go do it as a fun thing, I don’t think I would be as good as I should be, second, there is a real risk involved, and that’s one of the things I touched on a little bit when I stepped away, but it’s a serious thing the head injuries, the potential for long-term stuff there, I don’t feel like that risk is the best thing for me now.”

From handing out business cards at the start of his career, to driving for Mike Mittler in the NASCAR Truck Series, all the way through his climb up the ranks with Roush Racing, and his final two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, Edwards says he wouldn’t change a thing.

“For me, I feel like some sort of plan got laid out to me, now I see it’s definitely by god. I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s awesome, I wouldn’t have one more point in that tie with Tony Stewart [2011], I wouldn’t change anything in 2016. I just feel completely blessed, things are great, so no regrets.”

“Of course, I’d like more trophies, but I wouldn’t change anything.”

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks to Carl Edwards to kinda explanning his reasons for exiting NASCAR when he was doing so well. BUT, I completely understand. Congratulations on the Hall of Fame!! I voted for ya! Best of Luck in the future and I would love to see you in the Booth more often. Hopefully, NBC might recognize that. Fox’s coverage is about to end.

  2. Congratulations on the Hall of Fame voting for you. Carl, You were and still my favorite driver ever. I had the privilege of meeting you several times. I have a brick in front of the Hall of Fame building when I met you on 2.28.09 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I have the duplicate one at my house. My daughter worked for Nascar at the time. I have a signed Aflac Jacket, part of a door shell of one of you 99 cars. We even share the same birthday. I wish you all the best.

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